US, EU Sanctions Aren't Working In Myanmar

(MENAFN- Asia Times) When Myanmar's military seized back control of the country in February 2021 after a decade-long democratic interlude, the international community reached for a familiar tool: economic sanctions.

The coup led several countries, including the United States and European Union member states , to impose or reinstate trade embargoes and other financial proscriptions against Myanmar's military.

On February 1, 2024 – coinciding with the third anniversary of the military coup – the US announced a fresh round of sanctions . It comes as the Myanmar government continues to be embroiled in a grinding civil war with ethnic minority insurgent groups . But to date, sanctions have not encouraged the ruling generals back toward a democratic path or tipped the war in favor of pro-democratic resistance groups.

Moreover, as experts on East and Southeast Asia and economic sanctions , we know that the history of Myanmar – and our own research – suggests that economic sanctions are unlikely to have that impact any time soon.

Current sanctions against Myanmar

The current sanctions against Myanmar share much in common with those imposed prior to 2010, when the country began a process to restore democratic government . The actions taken since 2021 by the US, EU and others – which include targeted and sector-specific sanctions – are aimed at undermining the military junta's ability to violently repress the country's pro-democracy movement .

Sanctions have failed to prevent Myanmar's military from obtaining hardware. STR/AFP via Getty Images

At the same time, those imposing sanctions appear to be more cognizant than in previous periods of the potential negative impacts on the Burmese people .

The sanctions imposed after the 2021 coup are more targeted and designed to affect the military government and its enterprises. In earlier periods, the financial measures were broader and affected the entire Myanmar economy.

This is by design. The legal basis for post-2021 US economic sanctions on Myanmar, Executive Order 14014 , serves as the foundation for a multitude of targeted measures, which include restrictions on individuals and businesses connected to supplying Myanmar's air force with jet fuel.

Signed on February 11, 2023, the new US sanctions regime reflects changes in how the Biden administration intends to use financial penalties to target Myanmar's generals, not its people.

The US has also made it a priority to work collaboratively with international partners on imposing complementary rather than competing sanctions.


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